“He’s still up there?”
Inside the empty…. Well, mostly empty… Rosemont Horizon, Cecilia Ryan was squinting as she looked up toward the upper deck where her father, Dan Ryan was running up steps toward the top of the arena.
Lindsay Troy, the Queen of the Ring, sat in what will eventually be prime ringside real estate at ICONIC, and turned her head to match her gaze.
“Yes, he most certainly is.”
Cecilia Ryan was up at the crack of dawn this morning — 5am to be exact — training and getting acquainted with the Chicago scenery in the leadup to her father’s biggest match in years. She thought she’d push a little harder today, thought her dad would be impressed with her work ethic…
“But we left the hotel at the same time this morning….”
“Well kid,” Troy stood. “Welcome to big match training, copyright Dan Ryan. Although….” She looked at the Apple Watch on her wrist. “It’s almost 11am. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen him push this hard.”
Cecilia looks back at her aunt.
“How long have you been here waiting?”
Troy glanced back up at Ryan and noticed him disappear into one of the entrance tunnels. ‘Good’, she thought to herself quietly.
“Well, we made plans to have lunch around 11. I got here, I don’t know, maybe 15 minutes ago? Honestly, I thought he’d be long done, showered and dressed to go by now. Looks like he’s wrapping up…”
Just then, Dan Ryan emerged at the top of the lower bowl and started his run down the steps, but a couple aisles away from where Lindsay and Cecilia are standing.
They started toward the opening to the floor at the bottom of his aisle.
Cecilia Ryan’s eyes locked onto her father, watching the intense expression on his face, sweating profusely, never taking his eyes off of the steps in front of him as he took multiple steps at a time, occasionally slipping through the opening in the metal railing separating the up and down sides of the aisle.
“I’ve never seen him like this.”
Troy gave her a sideways glance as they approached his aisle. “He’s gonna have to figure out how to go 97 minutes with maybe the best wrestler in the world….”
“I know, but….” Cecilia stopped short as Dan Ryan got to the bottom of the steps, just a mere few feet in front of them. He gave them both a short look, but showed no expression. Instead, he used his sleeve to wipe some sweat off his forehead, then turned around and darted back up the steps.
“Hey!” Troy called out to him, and he finally stopped, putting his hands on his hips and turning around.
“I’m just gonna run a few more.”
Cecilia muttered under her breath. “Run a few more??”
“Dan,” Troy saw where this was going. “You’ve been here for hours. We made lunch plans, remember?”
She knew this was futile.
Dan Ryan stared at her, saying nothing for a few moments, then replied. “I’m just gonna run a few more.”
“You’re gonna pass out if you don’t eat something.”
There was legitimate concern in her voice, but she realized this was a long shot at best. He continued to look at her, not reacting, and a few moments later…
“Just a few more.” And with that, he turned and darted back up the steps.
Lindsay threw her hands up in the air. “I knew that wasn’t gonna work.”
Cecilia just looked, dumbfounded, from her aunt to her father, watching him as he once again exited at the top of the lower bowl on his way back to the upper bowl. Lindsay looked back, resigned, and Cecilia finally shrugged.
“I could go for some lunch.”
Lindsay and Cece headed to the entrance ramp and started walking up, Troy’s arm across her niece’s shoulders as they went. “Well good. I hate eating alone.”
Both smiled as they reached the top — then, Lindsay Troy looked over and up as a small figure in the shape of this weekend’s challenger for the HOW World Championship… pumped his legs furiously halfway up in the upper bowl of the arena, on his way to the top.
She shook her head and smiled, muttering to herself as they turn to go.
“Right back to the top….”
Six hours later….
“Well, look who decided to finally show up?”
Dan Ryan walks through the quiet, yet crowded dining room of Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, on the first floor of the Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago, toward the back corner where Lindsay Troy is sitting at a booth.
Ryan is only just barely dressed up enough for this place, wearing his nicest jeans, a button down and leather overcoat. Trust me, this is dressed up in Texas.
He sits down as he reaches the table.
Troy leans forward on her elbow, hands clasped. “You know, there’s working hard to prepare for a big match and there’s working so hard that you wear yourself out before a big match.”
“You know,” He replies as he looks over the menu. “I have done this once or twice before.”
No expression from the Queen.
“As have I.”
His eyes glance up, and he smiles.
“Yes. As have you.”
His smile is sincere, but there’s an edge, and she sees it. She puts her hands up, a peace offering.
“Okay, okay. I’ll back off. You know what you’re doing.” She looks down at her own menu, and he looks back at his. “If I’m completely honest, it’s a little bit motivational seeing you go this hard all week. I know you’re always training, don’t get me wrong….”
Dan nods. “But this is different. You’re right, this is different.”
She taps on her water glass as a waiter approaches with a refill, nodding her approval, then looking back to Ryan.
“And why is it so different? Like you said, you’ve done this once or twice before….”
He doesn’t look up. A few moments of silence pass between them before he speaks.
“Because I need to find out if I can beat him.”
She nods, “A popular question lately.” He puts the menu down and gives her his full attention.
“I tested him, Lindsay. I came through the door, I walked right up to him and I tested him. I gave him the biggest challenge he’s had since… when? Ever? In several years at least. I gave him a challenge and he rose to that challenge. He went from idiot savant to just savant right before our eyes. I’m just short of saying he’s the best wrestler I’ve ever seen in the ring, and you know I’ve seen them all.”
Her eyes go up slightly at this, but he continues.
“I’m not kidding. This isn’t a joke. I’ve been in lots of companies and competed in lots of main events in lots of ‘biggest shows of the year’, but right now none of that matters because this is the one that will define this chapter of my career. This is the moment, right here where I put my permanent mark on High Octane Wrestling, and if he’s honest… it’s his chance to do the same thing. This is as big as it fucking gets.”
“Well,” Troy smiles and shakes her head, impressed. “I have to say, I wouldn’t wish this version of you on my worst enemy.”
Ryan softens slightly, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, well, seeing as how we both have pretty much the same worst enemies right now, what exactly would you wish on your worst enemies?”
She thinks it over for a second.
“Endless Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons?”
Dan nods, rolling with it. “Chatty Uber drivers?”
Now we’re in rapid-fire mode…
“The polite scorn of Canadians?”
“A predisposition to hitting ‘reply-all’ by accident?”
“A Comcast monopoly in their region?”
“Lots of friends who talk endlessly about their babies’ advanced mental and physical development?”
She stops, eyebrows raised. Dan chuckles.
“This is a switch. Usually you’re all serious and I’m trying to lighten the mood.”
She shrugs. “Well, sometimes things change.”
“Yes.” Dan Ryan smiles and nods. “Sometimes they do.” His mood gets a little more serious again. “Speaking of which, there are gonna have to be some changes after ICONIC. Certain things have…. run their course.”
Lindsay leans back, taken a bit off guard by this. “I’m listening….”
Ryan looks down briefly, then back up.
“We’ve been operating like War Games never ended. They threw us all together to fight one fight, and we fought it. We can’t just keep trudging along like nothing’s changed. A lot has changed. I’m not saying we blow it up. I’m saying we…. “ Ryan looks off, searching for the word. “Adapt to certain new realities. And remember some old ones. We were invited here, and yet we keep playing along with this idea that we’re outsiders trying to denigrate HOW, like we’re out to destroy this place, destroy what they stood for, and why? Because we came in with Eric Dane. We came in and we said it was fine because we didn’t have to agree with him. We could just fight. But that’s not how it works. We were careless.”
Lindsay thinks about this, then locks eyes with her brother-in-law.
“Okay. What are you proposing?”
A smirks starts to form on Dan’s face as he looks back at her and he takes his glass, taking a long drink.
“I’ll tell you.”
Promontory Beach, on the Shores of Lake Michigan.
Dan Ryan is standing over a fire pit, his hands outstretched to take in the warmth of the fire. Up and down the beach, people brave enough to deal with the cold get in one last night before the vicious cold front expected the next day. Members of the Troy-Ryan family are milling about. The kids are running around, several throwing a football back and forth in the near-darkness, another retrieving bamboo skewers for s’mores.
Ryan just looks into the fire though, the light breaking through the darkness just enough for his face to be seen.
The nominations for the Academy Awards were just announced. I was surprised… surprised to not see anyone from the eMpire nominated for anything.
Nothing in visual effects for any of Max Kael’s work over the past year?
Nothing for Mike Best’s dramatic portrayal of an insecure adult toddler with daddy issues?
Nothing for you, Cecilworth, and your impressive work in taking Mike Best from a man who once enacted incredible violence upon his opponents, who was synonymous with High Octane Wrestling, who won… how many World Championships? How many ICON championships? Who made a title, in the HOFC, be so tied to his legacy that it is permanently retired because no one could beat him for it….. Taking that man, and turning him into a happy-go-lucky party clown who carries your luggage… and simply talks about those things.
No award for that?
No award for turning your best friend into a sidekick?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m impressed. No passive aggression here, my friend. I’m impressed. What others so pitifully failed to do over the years, you did without even trying.
From one asshole to another, Cecilworth, I’m dutifully admiring of your work. If there was a nomination, I’d vote for you twice. You might be the best professional wrestler of all time. You befriended a legend and you convinced him to step aside while you dominate his backyard, to the point that he finally broke down in a dressing room and politely asked you if, maybe…. If you’re not gonna finish your tots, could he maybe have them? Could he, just to know, just to see if he deserves his own tots, could he finish them? Please? And then what? After he’s had those tots, will he come to you again, hat in hand and ask again… please? Please sir, can I have some more? And will you reach your hand out to your best friend, embrace him warmly and whisper in his ear…. Yes my son, I will share my tots with you. Come home. Come home.
I can’t wait, honestly. I can’t wait for this new gregarious Cecilworth Farthington who looks sadly at his best friend and evolves from murderous, psychopathic wrestling savant into the savior and tool for the resurrection of Michael Best, as he rises like a phoenix from the ashes and returns to his place on high, the prodigal son running to the bosom of his erstwhile hero father, unquestioned hero of High Octane Wrestling, heir to the throne, son of God, redeemed and restored.
The parade? It’s gonna be fuckin’ lit.
That little snicker forming on the corner of your mouth? I see it. Right here in my mind’s eye, I see it. You think… oh, how typical… trying to drive a wedge between family. It can’t be done. Stop wasting your time.
That’s not what I’m doing at all.
In fact, I say what I’m saying out of my overdeveloped sense of give a damn.
Before you recast yourself as a loving, caring friend who listened to his poor friend relate to him his feeling of inadequacy, who watched on and finally held out a hand to help his friend stand on his own two feet again, I want you to remember that it is you who has taken every shortcut to get where you are. It is you who has taken every opportunity to make sure the scales are tipped in your favor no matter the method, no matter the cost to anyone around you. You have tightly clutched those belts to your chest, and you have in turn converted your best friend from a legend into a quivering heap, begging you for a chance to prove to himself that he can still go. Then, the three of you both brag about your dominance and insult the quality of the men and women with you in the main event picture in the same breath. It’s quite a gift.
You and your best friend.
Good job, Cecilworth. You cucked the Son of God.
If it were up to me, which it’s not, I would prefer you drop all of this best friend bullshit and just fight it the fuck out already. That’s how men handle these things. And, I’d prefer that you got in a ring, walked right up to me the way I walked right up to you my first night in HOW, and we slug it out like men — just because I actually give a damn about finding out which of us is actually the best at this. But hey, like I said, it’s not up to me, Cecilworth.
So, I guess, I’ll just take what I can get. I’ve bided my time, I’ve survived a cage match, a match at Alcatraz, and I’m still here, unpinned, and now it’s you and me, 97 minutes for the World fuckin’ Championship. I’m bringing the fight right to you, man to man, and I guess we’ll see what kind of man you are.
Wave that off if you like. Take my words lightly at your own peril. Write a sketch for Lorne. There’s still plenty of time before the music hits the speakers and we walk down to the ring. We can decide this once and for all, or you can bring your BEST FRANDS™ with you and we can play that same game one more time. Who knows? Maybe I’ll add some new pieces to the board.
Ryan smiles, ever so slightly, the fire’s flickering reflection in his eyes.
God knows I’m nothing if not adaptable…
A short quick glance at the ‘camera’ and we….